Bradley gaining confidence with every game

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Bradley gaining confidence with every game

BOSTON Every now and then, Avery Bradley finds himself resisting the urge to pinch himself when he thinks about where he was a year ago and where he is now.

Back then he was just another young guy in the NBA trying to find his way on to the court and play meaningful minutes.

Today, he's a starter for one of the most storied franchises in the NBA.

Several of his teammates have praised Bradley for the strides he has made in his overall game.

But the most important individual in recognizing his progress has been C's head coach Doc Rivers.

Rivers acknowledges being surprised at how much Bradley's all-around game has improved.

"I said last year what he was defensively. You could see that," Rivers said. "Offensively, he's definitely ahead. Defensively, I thought he was there last year."

Said Bradley: "It's been exciting, especially seeing my progression and now getting a chance."

And with his chance, the Celtics (31-24) are now seen as having a greater chance of making a deep playoff run in part because of Bradley's emergence.

Bradley isn't just starting, but he's starting ahead of a shoo-in Hall of Famer in Ray Allen who is still considered one of the NBA's top shooters.

Still, for Rivers, the impact that Bradley has made defensively with the first unit has been too important to not be in the starting lineup.

"Avery's going nowhere defensively," Rivers said. "He's going to be right there. Teams are going to start setting far more backcourt picks on him."

And those picks have already taken a toll on his body.

Bradley has been dealing with a left shoulder injury that's still bothersome, but not enough to where he anticipates missing any games. And the bevy of screens and picks that he has to fight through every game only makes it tougher to fully recover.

"The screens definitely don't help," Bradley said. "Every time I do a certain movement, it bothers me. But I'll be alright."

Bradley has come too far too quickly to allow a minor injury to have major impact on him making the most of his opportunity to play now.

As a rookie last year, remaining confident was not easy.

Fortunately for Bradley, he had several teammates -- among them Sasha Pavlovic -- constantly giving him tips on how to improve his game as well as keeping his spirits up when things weren't going his way.

The two go one-on-one before most games, home and on the road.

They have struck up the kind of friendship that, when Bradley rattles off all those who have helped him get to where he is now, Pavlovic is indeed on the list.

"Sasha has helped me out so much, always keeping my confidence up" Bradley said. "It used to be after games, I'd come to Sasha and say, 'How'd I do? What do I need to do?' Him and Keyon (Dooling), I always ask those guys and they used to tell me. It's something that we all help each other out with. That's why I love my teammates."

And while Bradley is used to being the one being encouraged, he finds himself now returning the favor to Pavlovic.

"Sometimes he might pass up a shot," Bradley said. "And we're like, 'Sasha, shoot the ball! We know you can shoot! Keep shooting it!' "

Bradley was among the Celtics excited with the play of Pavlovic in Boston's 86-72 win on Saturday, a game in which Pavlovic had eight points with most coming during a critical second quarter run that positioned the C's for the victory.

"Me and Sasha been like this since last year," Bradley said. "We hang out; we always help each other out. He's somebody that felt comfortable around me. We want to see each other succeed."

Bradley is indeed doing just that, which is somewhat surprising when you consider how far he has come from where he was a year ago this time.

He remembers vividly how uncomfortable and unsure he was about his game last year. He could see it on video of last year's games.

"Me being bringing the ball up court, how timid I was, everything. You could sense it, how nervous I was," Bradley said.

He has no plans of forgetting those times, because they serve as a reminder of where he's at now, and where he doesn't ever want to return to.

"That's what I try to do every game, take steps forwards and not take steps back," Bradley said.

Back then, Bradley admits his confidence wasn't where it needed to be.

That's not an issue now.

"Totally gone," Bradley said of his lack of confidence at times last year. "And that comes from my teammates, too; giving me confidence. Sometimes letting me know, 'You're good. You don't have to be nervous.' Kevin (Garnett) tells me stuff like that all the time. That's motivation hearing it from those guys."

Report: Aroldis Chapman, Yankees reach deal for $86M, 5 years

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Report: Aroldis Chapman, Yankees reach deal for $86M, 5 years

OXON HILL, Md. - Aroldis Chapman found a spot in a most familiar bullpen - a very rich spot, too.

The hard-throwing closer reached agreement to return to the New York Yankees on Wednesday night with the highest-priced contract ever for a relief pitcher, an $86 million deal for five years.

A person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press that the contract was pending a physical. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal was not yet complete.

Once it's done, the 28-year-old lefty whose fastballs routinely top 100 mph would shatter the previous richest contract for a reliever - that was the $62 million, four-year deal Mark Melancon signed with San Francisco just a couple days ago during the winter meetings.

Chapman was acquired by New York from the Cincinnati Reds last offseason, then missed the first 29 games of the season due to a domestic violence suspension from Major League Baseball. The Cuban was traded to the Chicago Cubs in late July and helped them win the World Series, becoming a free agent when it was over.

Chapman went 4-1 with 36 saves and a 1.55 ERA in a combined 59 games for the Yankees and Cubs. He struggled some in the postseason as the Cubs beat Cleveland for their first championship since 1908.

With the Yankees this season, Chapman teamed with Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances in one of the most dominant bullpens in baseball history. Miller was later traded to Cleveland, but Betances is still with New York.

Earlier this week, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said the team was interested in both Chapman and fellow free agent closer Kenley Jansen. The Yankees had already made one deal at these meetings, signing slugger Matt Holliday, before paying a lot more to bring Chapman back to the Bronx.

Fox Sports first reported the agreement.

Brown fires up Celtics teammates with tomahawk dunk over Vucevic

Brown fires up Celtics teammates with tomahawk dunk over Vucevic

Well it appears that Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic wasn’t the only one who didn’t see Jaylen Brown’s powerful dunk over him coming. 
 
Apparently, Brown didn’t see it coming either. 
 
“It caught me off-guard,” Brown said after Boston’s 117-87 thumping of the Magic. “I wasn’t even expecting it. It happens. It’s part of basketball. It’s two points.”
 
The play in question came early in the second quarter when Brown blew past Jodie Meeks into the lane and took off towards the rim. 
 
Vucevic jumped late, got dunked on and the Celtics bench went bananas!
 
“It gave our team a lot of energy,” Brown acknowledged.
 
Brown understands part of his job in coming off the bench is to make an impact with effort. 
 
And in doing so, he senses that his teammate’s confidence him in and his game can only grow.
 
“I feel like my teammates are trusting me more, getting more trust from the coaching staff,” said Brown who finished with 13 points. 
 
Avery Bradley likes what he’s seen from Brown, a young player who has shown tremendous promise. 
 
And that dunk over Vucevic?
 
“You’re going to see a lot more of those in his career,” Bradley said. “He gets us going.”